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From Black | Indigenous to Black Indigenous (2021-)

From Black Indigenous to Black Indigenous: Envisioning Black Indigenous Identities Since the Turn of the 21st Century

This project seeks to analyze the rapidly growing, diverse body of work produced since the turn of the 21st century by writers, artists, activists identifying as African Native American/Black Indigenous. The corpus of materials to be examined includes: literature across the genres; artwork and museum exhibitions; films/documentaries; various forms of online content. These primary texts will be subjected to contextualized, close readings with the aim to shed light on their active role in envisioning what it means to be Black and Indigenous and in gauging the potentialities inherent in recalibrating dominant binary conceptions of identity – in short, to move from Black|Indigenous to Black Indigenous.

The context in which the primary materials will be placed are the legal debates that have been fought in the political bodies and courts of both the United States and Native tribal nations on African American identity, tribal identity, race, and “Indian blood.” The multiple court cases over the citizenship of the so-called Cherokee freedmen—the descendants of those African Americans/African Native Americans enslaved by the Cherokee Nation—are a particularly rich source not only for analyzing dominant conceptions of Cherokeeness vs. Blackness, but also for unearthing the genealogy of these conceptions: their groundedness in a history of settler colonial violence and domination and in settler colonial ways of seeing, knowing, and categorizing the world. Hence, in this project Black Indigenous expression will be approached with a particular eye to how it negotiates dominant legal discourses that have defined Black and Indigenous as two mutually exclusive categories of classification/identification and have hence written Black Indigenous subjectivities out of existence.